Make Ahead

Maialino's Olive Oil Cake

July  4, 2021
159 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Makes a 9-inch round cake
Author Notes

Olive oil cake at its best has a crackling crust and an aromatic oil-rich middle, which, if it held any more moisture, would be pudding. Pulling this off should be easy—there aren't even egg whites to whip and fold, or butter to cream—but it isn't always. This one, however, is perfect, and will ruin you for all others. Recipe from Maialino Restaurant in New York City, where they also serve it at breakfast in muffin form, and they've been known to turn it into a birthday cake, layered with mascarpone buttercream. The recipe is pictured here with Michelle Polzine's Slow-Roasted Strawberries from Genius Desserts by Kristen Miglore (Ten Speed Press, September 2018).

Helpful tools for this recipe:
- Olipac Stainless Steel Olive Oil Dispenser
- GIR Silicone Grip Whisk
- Mosser Glass Cake Stand

Genius Recipes

Test Kitchen Notes

Why is this the most beloved Genius dessert of all time? We'll tell you: It's irresistibly moist, rich and flavorful without being cloying, and exceptionally simple. Mix together some wet ingredients in one bowl, dry ingredients in another, tip the combined mixture into a cake pan, and boom. You've got a foolproof, good-no-matter-what cake. No butter softening or egg whipping or mixer wielding necessary. And because of all the moisture in the batter, there's not even the slightest chance of the cake overbaking and drying out.

On the olive oil: Since it's the primary flavor in the cake, use one that you'd be happy featuring in a salad dressing. A fruity type will complement the Grand Marnier and orange zest in the batter, while a peppery, grassy kind will create a wonderful savory contrast. It's really a matter of personal taste.

Of course, because our community loves this cake so much, they've found ways to make it their own: They've swapped out some of the all-purpose flour for almond meal and cornmeal; they've used infused olive oil for an even more pronounced punch of flavor; they've used other liqueurs in place of the Grand Marnier, to give the cake a slightly different personality; they've even added cocoa powder, espresso powder, and matcha powder (separately!) to the batter to give it a whole new groove. Mix-ins, too, aren't part of the original cake's deal, but chopped nuts, chocolate chunks or chips, or freeze-dried strawberries or raspberries would all be spectacular. Choose your own adventure—you can't go wrong any way. —Brinda Ayer
—The Editors

Watch This Recipe
Maialino's Olive Oil Cake
  • 2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups (350 grams) sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/3 cups (285 grams) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups (305 grams) whole milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange zest
  • 1/4 cup (60 grams) fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup (55 grams) Grand Marnier
In This Recipe
  1. Heat the oven to 350° F. Oil, butter, or spray a 9-inch cake pan that is at least 2 inches deep with cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper. (If your cake pan is less than 2 inches deep, divide between 2 pans and start checking for doneness at 30 minutes.)
  2. In a bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and powder. In another bowl, whisk the olive oil, milk, eggs, orange zest and juice and Grand Marnier. Add the dry ingredients; whisk until just combined.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour, until the top is golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool for 30 minutes.
  4. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, invert the cake onto the rack and let cool completely, 2 hours.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Carol Johnson-Williams
    Carol Johnson-Williams
  • Debbie Nagy
    Debbie Nagy
  • Sylvie Chisholm
    Sylvie Chisholm
  • Jennifer Handley
    Jennifer Handley
  • navahfrost
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

565 Reviews

Gini November 14, 2022
This cake gets raves every time from adults and kids. Easy to make, it stays fresh for days, freezes easily and defrosts to it's delicious moist original self.
Joy B. November 9, 2022
i've made this several times. Always delicious BUT I always get a pudding-y center.
What am I doing wrong
Linda E. November 9, 2022
Two thoughts - are you making certain that the oil is well mixed with the other liquids? I make this on a regular basis and don’t bother using a mixer - I whisk the liquids until the oil is not discernible. Also, try using just a cup of oil. And the full hour baking time is needed. I have even turned off the oven and left the cake in for another 10 mins or so.
maryO November 10, 2022
To Linda’s comments below, I would add that it often takes well over an hour to bake this cake. I made this cake again last week, using a mix of gluten-free flour and almond flour and reduced oil to 3/4 cup. I started testing for doneness with a toothpick every 10 minutes after 1 hour, and toothpick didn’t come out dry until almost 1 hour 40 minutes. It was delicious and still super moist without being “pudding-y”
Ccurley1 September 21, 2022
I made this delicious cake tonight using 1 cup cornmeal and 1 cup flour. I didn’t have milk so I used Greek yogurt with a bit of water. No lemons at home so I substituted orange, and also tossed in a little finely chopped rosemary. It is fabulous. It sounds like I changed a lot but this recipe was my inspiration. Thanks! I may try another with orange and cardamom.
Tortoise September 19, 2022
simply fantastic
liz August 15, 2022
I am making a wedding cake for a bride who requested olive oil cake. I tested this cake against 6 others (Bon App, NYT, ATK, Serious Eats, a couple others) and did taste testing at a (different) party I went too. This was the definite favorite for its luscious density and pronounced olive oil flavor. (If you like a lighter fluffier cake I recommend the America's Test Kitchen version)
navahfrost August 19, 2022
Question for Liz: Have you layered it yet? Someone has asked me to make olive oil cake into a layered birthday cake and just wonder if it will hold up with filling and frosting. Too dense?

Scott N. July 31, 2022
Made this cake for a party of 10 and it received rave reviews. Followed the hint to use 2 cake pans and cook 30 minutes. The strawberry sauce is a must to include. Served with vanilla ice cream. My wife reports it is the best dessert she has had in a long time. Will definitely make again.
Christine's C. July 24, 2022
Outstanding. This is a hit every time I make it.
Carol J. July 2, 2022
Best cake ever...easy recipe and always leaves our guests wanting more.
Nladdfuller June 21, 2022
Made recipe twice: one with oranges/orange zest and a second with lemons/lemon zest. Lemon was more flavorful. Too liquidy though. I would reduce olive oil by 1/8 of c. and maybe milk by 1/8 of c.
Ann F. June 11, 2022
My guests and I thought this cake was wonderful! The only change I made was to reduce the sugar to 1 1/2 C, which was perfect for us. I weighed all of the ingredients, which I believe is important for baking ( as an experiment, I weighed 2C of flour and it came to 296g). I set my convection oven to 325 and the cake was done in exactly 1hr. Served with vanilla ice cream and rhubarb compote - delish!
Debbie N. June 6, 2022
I made this cake for a shower exactly to the recipe. From the reviews, I was hesitant not to make changes but I wanted to try it just as stated and I'm so glad that I did. I used kosher salt as in the recipe and it was not too much. I was afraid 1.5 T of zest would be too much but it was perfect. It did take 3 oranges for me but they were small. So easy to make and I had rave reviews from my guests. I served it with dark cherry sauce and it was very good. I personally love the cake plain because I don't like things too sweet and I do not want to disguise any of the wonderful orange flavor! Will make again and again.
Sylvie C. May 27, 2022
The best cake.
Oh yes I did make so often and I am gone make one right NOW. thank
You for it.
dfhahle April 29, 2022
I took the advice of several reviewers and reduced the olive oil and sugar to 1 cup each, and increased the orange zest to 2 tablespoons. Baked perfectly at 350 for 60 minutes (non-convection). Served it with fresh strawberries. Yum!
Duck W. April 17, 2022
Way too much olive oil, sugar and salt. Holy heck the salt. I don't know how anyone in the reviews is making this exactly with the recipe as is and saying it's perfect. I ended up having to throw it in the trash. I've made quite a few other olive oil cakes with other recipes and never had an issue. Notice before attempting this one that a lot of the reviews are reducing oil and salt and sugar.
Did you use Kosher salt? There is a big difference between regular table salt and Kosher salt.
mountainMan18 February 7, 2022
I think it should be renamed a “pudding cake”, because it is so moist. It tastes very good
VSam February 5, 2022
If you're going to reduce the sugar & olive oil to 1 cup each (which I did), I'd recommend decreasing the salt by 1/2 tsp too. I baked it in a pain de mie loaf pan (came out perfectly at 350 degrees and 50 mins). I've had Maialino's muffins and they are richer tasting. I'll make this again, but will try it with 1-1/4 cup olive oil.
brandyk February 3, 2022
What can I say, this is a fine cake.
I really loved how easy this cake is to make. And I was super excited to try it because of the rave reviews. It came out perfect, no problems whatsoever. I just think I am not that into cakes that aren't fluffy. Flavor was good. I Love Grand Marnier and would have preferred a bit more flavor. I noticed Mailanos recipe states orange zest from 3 oranges and this recipe calls for 1.5 Tbs. For me that was only 2 oranges. I doubt I will ever make this again only because I buy expensive olive oil and wouldn't waste it on something I am not going to eat. I got caught up in the hype from the reviews!
Thida December 27, 2021
Threw this together last minute for the holidays and was a hit, night after night, even three days later. I cut the sugar in half and used contreau instead of grand marnier and was perfect.
Jennifer H. December 7, 2021
I found this recipe on here a few years ago, and have to say it is an absolute favorite in my house. I follow the recipe always, grand mariner, OJ, all of it, and when I do a cake version, I make mascarpone frosting with with some butter, vanilla and powdered sugar. Simply scrumptious! When I bake the muffin version I add dark chocolate amazingly delicious! After reading these great tips, I think I will try some of them! Thank you!
Jaroslaw99 November 25, 2021
Used 1 cup cultured buttermilk, 1 cup olive oil and 1 cup sugar. Also about 4 Tbsp orange zest. Baked exactly one hour in 10 inch matte gold springform lined with parchment. Came out perfect although the batter seemed thin. Everyone loved how light it was and not too sweet. Roasting strawberries seemed like too much. I took one pound of strawberries, cut in half, added 1/2,cup sugar and 1/2 cup water. Simmer to desired consistency.